Letter to the people of the Pikes Peak Region
In a few days I will leave office after a prosecutorial career spanning almost 40 years. Before I leave, I’d like to take a moment to thank the citizens of the Pikes Peak region for entrusting me with leading the incredible men and women of the 4th Judicial District (Teller and El Paso counties) for the past 12 years.
Hard to believe, but we are the busiest DA’s office in the entire state, handling 32,000-35,000 cases per year, or in my 12 years as DA about 350,000 to 400,000 cases. We have grown to over 240 employees, 90 attorneys, and over 125 volunteers. You can be proud of the hard work, dedication, and professionalism that they have devoted to each and every one of these cases and the compassion with which each crime victim has been treated. Over the course of my three terms, we have dealt with crimes such as looters from the Waldo and Black Forest fires, black market marijuana grows and its ensuing violence, gang violence, human trafficking, and major cases such as the murder of DOC Director Tom Clements, the Planned Parenthood murders, the shooting of De’Von Bailey, and the murder of Kelsey Berreth, to name a few.
On a personal note, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge certain individuals for their outstanding work, although I know I can’t name them all in a letter, and for that I apologize. I want to thank Martha McKinney for developing the best training and leadership program of any DA office in the state. Many of our people have been recognized over the years for their outstanding work; Shannon Gerhart, Donna Billek, Debbie Pearson and Dan Zook are some of the attorneys in our office who have been named Prosecutor of the Year for the state of Colorado. Margaret Vellar was the first recipient of the Sean May Award, Jeff Harwood was the National DEA Prosecutor of the Year, Gwen Stein continues to lead our amazing volunteer program, winning the Kaleidoscope Award as the outstanding volunteer coordinator in the Pikes Peak Region. Diana Colon and Joy Elder have each won the Victim Advocate of the Year Award for the state of Colorado.
I am very proud of the fact that we have been leaders in innovative programs throughout the state. Believe it or not, it actually took several years for our office to get WiFi in the courthouse. Once it was successfully implemented, Shannon Gerhart and Margaret Vellar converted our office from millions of pages of paper to laptops. No longer do we haul 35,000 case files to the courthouse with heavy trolleys; instead we presently haul only 90 laptops.
My first year in office, many in the justice system came together to start the first Veterans’ Court in Colorado, one that is currently recognized as the most outstanding in the nation. Thanks should be given in our office to Doug Miles, Jeff Lindsey, and Michael Allen for being leaders in the development of this court along with Judges Ronald Crowder and David Shakes. With the help of County Commissioner Sallie Clark, we brought the community together to combat child abuse death in the “Not One More” initiative. Due to this initiative, shaken baby deaths rarely occur today in our district. Shannon Gerhart, Jennifer Viehman, Stephanie Redfield, and others started a human trafficking diversion/rescue program that has successfully rescued dozens of victims of sex trafficking.
How can I possibly leave office without recognizing the women and men of the law enforcement agencies in our area including local, state, military, and federal? They are some of the most dedicated, best trained, highly educated, and professional law enforcement people in the entire country. They put their lives on the line for us every day and deserve our appreciation, respect, and gratitude. They certainly have mine.
It has been my privilege to have served the people of this community and to have worked with some of the finest people I have ever known. I have followed in the footsteps and mentorship of previous District Attorneys Jeanne Smith and John Suthers, and now I leave the office in the competent and professional hands of a dedicated and experienced prosecutor, Michael Allen. I know he will lead this office with the honesty and integrity that the citizens of El Paso and Teller counties have come to know and expect from their District Attorney.
Thanks for almost 40 years of memories!
Dan May, District Attorney, 4th Judicial District
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